Sixers' date with infamy approaches

Posted: March 28, 2014

SAN ANTONIO - On Saturday night, the 76ers will probably join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Phillies and the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks as the record holders for longest losing streaks in their respective sports.

And if the Detroit Pistons hand them consecutive loss No. 27, they not only will break the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers' NBA record but also will hold the overall mark in the four major pro sports, besting the dubious number of 26 set by the Buccaneers over the 1976-77 seasons.

While an obvious plan was in place for this season, set forth by new general manager Sam Hinkie, to make this a season whose only reward was to capture a high pick in June's draft, Hinkie couldn't have seen this coming. Bad, yes. Record-breaking horrible? No. But here we are, with national media now pouncing on the team and poking fun at its play.

A few weeks ago, former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy said that the roster the Sixers were putting on the floor was "embarrassing." New commissioner Adam Silver responded harshly, saying the players are playing hard and not trying to lose games.

Silver is right. The Sixers do play hard every night. But the roster is more conducive to being a middle-of-the-road D-League team than one that can compete in the NBA. Still, just 2 days ago, Silver came back by saying of the losing streak: "That's bad for everyone. It's potentially damaging to the players involved and the culture they're trying to create."

Told of the commissioner's comments on Tuesday, Sixers coach Brett Brown sort of bristled and said: "He doesn't need to worry about us. We're fine. We have this thing very much under control and there is no need for panic. My guys are great."

"Great" may be a little strong, but there is no denying that it is surprising how hard his team plays and how good the players' attitudes are while they go through this march to the record books. The simple reason is the roster, which has had 22 players see action this season.

"The league office comes out and says they aren't tanking, but the front office is tanking," said a league source who didn't want to be identified. "It was the front office's decision to put out a poor product, giving the coach no chance. He's coaching hard, but it's terrible for the league. What's happening now is the plan and it's proceeding. But now it's getting to a point where ownership and fans didn't know how ugly and painful it was going to be."

"Now the question has to be this: How many years could this be? Who do they have? Michael Carter-Williams has nice upside. [Nerlens] Noel? Who knows? He can block a weakside shot, but can he score? No. Can he shoot? No. He's a question mark.

"This draft is a good draft. But [Jabari] Parker and [Andrew] Wiggins are not franchise players. How long is this going to take? Is he [Hinkie] going to tank again next season, too?"

It is hard to believe that the succession of losses has now spanned 3 months, starting Jan. 31. There have been back-to-back losses by a combined 88 points. Seven of the 25 losses have been by 20 points or more. The average loss has been by 16.4 points. They have been shuffling players in and out on 10-day contracts at a dizzying pace.

"I put this on management," said an NBA executive. "There are three ways to rebuild and that's through draft, trade and free agency. Looking ahead, they may be thinking of getting rid of Thaddeus Young, too. He's a nice piece, but his contract isn't the best. But nobody is giving away first-round draft picks. They found that out when they were looking to unload Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes. It's too important in this CBA to have those first, cheap contracts.

"Sam Hinkie knew what he was doing. I don't think this [losing streak] bothers him at all. Usually a general manager would be ready to be put in an asylum after three straight losses, out of his mind after seven or so. I couldn't image what this is like for the support staff, though."

If there is one player in particular that this isn't easy for, it's Young. Now in his seventh season, he has been coached by five different men, experienced the excitement of an unexpected playoff run just two seasons ago and now will be linked to what most likely will be the longest losing streak in the history of the league.

"These are the cards that you're dealt, so you have to make the best of each and every situation," Young said. "It's very frustrating, but you look at the bigger picture. You look and see who you have coming back and what you can potentially be next year or the year after. And then you look and we have a lot of cap space where we can sign free agents and we have the draft. You look and see those types of things and the plan that your GM had and you see we have a chance to really build something special here.

"As of right now, the only thing on my mind is getting back to winning games."

Unfortunately for Young, that isn't the game plan right now.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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